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Addiction Recovery: How to Apologize and Mean It

You’ll go through many steps in addiction recovery, including apologizing to people you’ve harmed. While this sounds easy enough, the process itself can be much more difficult.

Furthermore, if you don’t take the right approach, your apology may appear “less than genuine.”

The way you apologize is every bit as important as the apology itself. You want to be authentic and truthful. You want to show the person that you truly care about their feelings and making things right. 

With all this in mind, let’s examine the steps you should take when apologizing. 

A man apologizing to his wife

1. Be Sincere 

This is where your apology begins. An insincere apology will fall on deaf ears. In fact, it may cause more harm than good.

Only offer an apology if you mean it. And when apologizing, do whatever it takes to make it clear that you’re truly sorry for your actions. 

Here are some tips you can follow for a more sincere apology:

  • Speak from your heart
  • Look the person in the eyes (if you’re meeting in person)
  • Take full responsibility for what happened

When your apology is sincere it’s much more likely to “land.” 

2. Make a Clear Statement

Let’s face it: there’s nothing simple about saying “I’m sorry.” Some people find it downright difficult. However, once you take the leap, you’ll realize just how good it feels. It’ll bring you closure. It’s the first step in mending your divide. 

No matter what else you say, make sure your apology includes the phrase “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.” Without this, it’ll seem incomplete.

3. Express Regret for Your Actions

As much as you don’t want to bring the original issue to light, it’s a crucial part of a proper apology. Make it clear why you’re apologizing. Don’t dance around the issue. This will make it look like you’re not truly sorry for your actions.

Remember this: you’re not apologizing for your addiction. You’re apologizing for an action you took as the result of your addiction and how it impacted the people in your life. There’s a big difference and you want to make this clear when apologizing.

4. Attempt to Make Amends 

Making amends is easier said than done, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. When you take steps to make amends, it shows that you truly care about making things right in your relationship.

For example, if you’re apologizing to someone for stealing money, do your best to repay them as soon as possible. Of course, you don’t want to overpromise. This increases the likelihood that you won’t make good on your promise.

Even if you’re trying to make amends, some people may not want to hear your apology. They simply want you to stay out of their life, or they may need more time before they’re ready to hear what you have to say. If they are at this stage, acceptance is important as there’s nothing you can do about it. 

5. Provide Assurance Regarding Future Behaviour 

It’s difficult to guarantee that something won’t happen in the future, but it helps to give the other party some assurance that you’re trying your best to avoid the same behaviour. You want them to see that you’re sacrificing to make things right between the two of you.

6. Give It Time

This is often the most difficult part of an apology. You share your feelings and hope that the other individual will forgive you. However, this doesn’t always happen (see point #4 above). You may have to give it some time—or a lot of time—to continue your conversation. 

You can’t expect an apology to undo your wrong. You can’t expect that to be enough. All you can do is be sincere, listen to the other person, and give them the space they need. Hopefully, there will come a day when your relationship is fully repaired.

Two women hugging each other

Don’t Make These Apology Mistakes 

As much as you want to make a “good” apology, there’s always a chance you could falter. Here are some of the most common apology mistakes. Understanding these in advance can help you avoid them.

  • Placing blame: When you apologize, it means you’re taking the blame for your actions. If you attempt to place blame during your apology, it has the potential to make things worse. 
  • Revising history: Know what you’re apologizing for and then take action. Don’t attempt to revise history, such as by altering your actions to make them appear less severe. If you don’t remember exactly what happened, stick to the basics. That’s not important. Your sincerity is what matters. 
  • Forcing the other person to accept your apology: Your job is to make an apology. You don’t have any control over how this impacts the other person. Maybe they’ll accept it in full. Maybe they’ll tell you that they’ll never forgive you. Don’t try to force your apology. Be sincere and let the process run its course. 

These aren’t the only mistakes lurking when making an apology, but they’re among the most common. Take these into consideration as you formulate what you’re going to say and how you’re going to present it. 

How to Apologize to Someone You Hurt: Final Thoughts 

No two apologies are the same, but taking the six steps above will put you on the right path. With this guidance, you’re more likely to apologize in a meaningful manner that puts your original issue behind you. 

Need help? Contact the professionals at Freedom From Addiction to learn more about the services provided at our private rehab center. You can expect the best quality care and service, without the wait associated with publicly funded rehab centers in Ontario. 




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